After 14 days of deliberation, jurors declared Blagojevich guilty of
lying to federal authorities in 2005 but were unable to reach a
verdict in 23 other corruption charges against the ex-governor,
including the attempt to sell President Barack Obama's vacant U.S.
Senate seat. Federal Judge James Zagel said he was left with little
choice but to call a mistrial.
"For all but one of the counts, the
jury hasn't reached a verdict," he told the court. "I intend to call
a mistrial in respect to those (charges)."
Zagel will meet with prosecutors and defense attorneys on Aug. 26
to set a trial date for the coming retrial, in which Blagojevich
will be taken to task for charges of wire fraud, bribery, extortion
Blagojevich was mute and focused as Zagel read the verdict, his
eyes fixed on the defense table before him. But outside the
courtroom, the 53-year-old politician, known for his glad-handing
and perpetual self-confidence, declared victory.
"The jury just showed you that -- notwithstanding this government
throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me -- that on every
count except for one they could not prove that I did anything
wrong," he said.
The government accused Blagojevich of using his office to shake
down political players, ranging from congressmen to children's
hospitals and industry leaders, for campaign contributions. The jury
could not agree whether Blagojevich actually tried to barter bill
signings and other state action to further his political and
personal finances, as the prosecution alleged. The defense argued
that the maneuvers represented everyday political games and pointed
to Blagojevich's actions -- he did not actually receive
contributions from his alleged targets -- to clear him. The tactics
may have raised doubts for at least one juror.
Blagojevich dismissed the guilty verdict as "a nebulous charge
from five years ago," and asserted the FBI prevented him from
actually recording the conversation. The prosecution said the
ex-governor lied to federal agents when he said he set up a "firewall" between governance and fundraising.
Blagojevich's swift change in demeanor also gripped his celebrity
defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., who could be seen rubbing his temples
and Blagojevich's back, as the verdict was read. Adam Jr. promptly
returned to the bombast, which has been his trademark, once faced
with the microphones.
"(Blagojevich) is a non-corruptible individual and when the
evidence came out it showed that," he said.
The courtroom silence and press conference clamor has been the
modus operandi of Blagojevich and his attorneys throughout the
trial. If anyone broke character during the tumult that followed the
verdict, it was lead prosecutor Reid Schar. The normally poker-faced
and composed Schar became visibly irritated at the verdict. His tone
was sharp as the judge asked of his willingness to retry the case.
"It is absolutely our intent to retry this case," he said. "We
can do it tomorrow."
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The defense immediately got to work questioning Schar's motives
for retrial, accusing him of rushing into retrial without
consideration of taxpayer money.
"Who'd want a prosecutor, who after 10 seconds of hearing what
the verdict is, jump up and say, 'No matter what, we're trying this
case again' -- you'd wanna think about it, wouldn't you?" Adam Jr.
said. "I ask the people out there -- is this worth it?"
Adam Jr. and Blagojevich repeatedly mentioned the
multimillion-dollar price tag of a retrial, saying the prosecution
was wasting time and money to "persecute" Blagojevich. But the
spend-happy ex-governor left his own financial troubles out of the
discussions. He is saddled with debt from his penchant for $2,000
suits and relied on the $2 million remaining in his campaign fund to
finance his defense. That money dried up on Monday, and the public
will now finance his defense in the coming retrial. Neither
Blagojevich nor his attorneys would say who would return to defend
him in a retrial.
The defense's declared triumph may be premature. Schar has not
appeared so ruffled since the defense rested its case without
calling any witnesses -- including Blagojevich, who had pledged to
testify since the day of his arrest. The prosecution will look to a
new set of jurors with the hope of bringing in more witnesses and
tapes to convict the governor of corruption.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who claimed to have stopped a
"crime spree" when federal agents arrested Blagojevich in a pre-dawn
raid on Dec. 9, 2008, stayed cool during his post-trial press
conference, thanking jurors for their service.
The jury may be the most relieved by Tuesday's verdict. Its
members indicated through multiple notes that they were deadlocked
throughout deliberations, telling the judge on Thursday they could
reach agreement on only two counts. Those two counts became one on
Tuesday, leaving another puzzle behind in what was dubbed by some
legal experts a "bizarre" panel of jurors. Jurors left the
courthouse refusing to answer any questions late Tuesday afternoon.
Blagojevich faces up to five years in prison for lying to federal
agents, a far cry from the 415 years he stared down at the trial's
The defense team vowed to appeal, a task that will fall to jury
expert Marc Martin, who assisted during closing arguments and jury
Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]